January 9, 2012
I recently reached Delta Platinum status thanks to a mileage run, a signup bonus (10K MQMs for signing up for the Delta Reserve credit card), and a large roll-over of miles from the previous year. Prior to this, for the past several years, I’ve had Gold status on Delta. The difference with Platinum is that upgrades have become much more likely and I can now cancel or change award reservations at no cost up to 72 hours prior to a flight. Since reaching Platinum status, I’ve flown 6 legs on Delta and I’ve been upgraded on all of them. I’ve also taken advantage of free changes to award tickets twice already! I already know that I do not want to lose Platinum status next year! But how?
An interesting outcome of this points and miles hobby is that now that I have a huge stash of airline miles, using them is less appealing than ever before. The reason? When I fly using miles, I do not earn miles and so I get no closer to keeping elite status for the following year. There are several approaches I can take to solve this conundrum (which I’ll write about in the future), but mostly I’ll look to use miles for big international trips where I can fly business or first class on miles, and I’ll pay for regional flights.
A bigger difficulty I’ll have with keeping elite status is that my job has changed to where I no longer travel for work. There is no doubt that work-related travel was the primary reason I even achieved Gold status in the past, so reaching Platinum status by flying will be harder than ever!
Mileage runs are always an option. I’ll keep my eye out for really great ones (let me know if you see any!), but I don’t see this as my primary avenue for reaching Platinum
A great alternative to flying many miles on Delta to achieve elite status is to spend huge amounts of money on certain Delta credit cards. The Delta Reserve card awards 15,000 MQMs after $30,000 in spend and another 15,000 after $60,000 in spend. Similarly, the Delta Platinum card awards 10,000 MQMs after $25,000 in spend and another 10,000 MQMs after $50,000 in spend. I have both of those cards (one personal and one business), so I can theoretically earn up to 50,000 MQMs by spending a lot. I would need a total of 75,000 MQMs to reach Platinum, and I know from experience that I can easily earn the 25,000 extra from flying.
Can I really spend that much money? Can I really spend $60,000 on one card and $50,000 on another for a total of $110,000 in one year?! Unlike Lucky and Gary, I do not have reimbursable business expenses, so it won’t be easy. I would need to spend $5000 per month on the Reserve card and just under $4200 per month on the Platinum card to reach this goal.
My strategy will be to concentrate first on the Reserve card since it has a higher rate of return (.5 MQMs per $ for the Reserve vs. .4 MQMs per $ for the Platinum). I should be able to average $3000 in personal spend per month, and I can afford to make Kiva loans to make up the difference to get me to $5K. So, meeting the challenge with this card will be fairly easy (except that I will continue to put travel and dining expenses on my Chase Sapphire Preferred for its extra points in those categories, so maybe this won’t be that easy).
With the Platinum card, I will look for opportunities to spend money and get most of it back (e.g. Perpetual Point Machines, Gift Card Churns, etc.). In December, for example, I used gift card churning techniques to spend over $2000 in a single day and I earned a huge number of points, and I got most of my money back. This is the type of opportunity I’ll continue to look for going forward. Whenever possible, I’ll share the details in this blog. Will I make it to $50K of spend on this card using these techniques? I think so, but only time will tell. In the December gift card churn I earned over 20 Ultimate Reward points per dollar spent. I doubt I will do that well with all of the churns, but if I do, and if I spend $50K with similar gift card churns, I will end up with well over 1 Million points and miles as a result!
Credit Card Churns
The strategy I described above will make it difficult for me to churn credit cards aggressively. Credit card signup bonuses that require large amounts of spend will be difficult to take on since I’m already committed to very high spend on my Delta cards. So, at least for 2012, I will be less aggressive than in the past with credit card signups. I’ll wait for the big, can’t pass them up, offers rather than trying to score big every 91 days. I understand that many readers have an opposite approach: maximize credit card churns and focus spending on meeting signup minimums. This is a great approach too, and it will get you huge numbers of miles and points. For me, though, I enjoy the PPM / Gift Card Churning game and I highly value Delta elite status so I choose to put my focus there.